Being a huge fan of Tammy Cohen’s I was thrilled to spot a copy of this on NetGalley and gave a little (well quite loud) squeal of excitement when the approval email came winging its way into my in-box. What I like about her writing is that each book I’ve read has felt very different, Tammy is certainly not a one-trick-pony, yet they all have in-depth characters and a sense of humour. However I was slightly nervous about this one with the subject matter of this one being about four murdered young (under-tens) girls, I did wonder what the pages were going to hold. I needn’t have worried, this is a great book, and the wry observational truths lighten the dark subject matter without ever venturing into a dismissive attitude to the crimes being described.
In North London we meet Poppy Glover’s mother who is wishing she could turn back time, two days before her daughter was safe, the day before she was only missing, there was still hope, but today she has been found dead on Hampstead Heath the scene of the previous three ‘Kenwood Killer’ murders, named after the nearby Kenwood House.
The same morning Emma Reid wakes up with her distant husband Guy, soon after the day has begun she will receive a phone call from the Family Liaison Officer assigned to them, Leanne Miller who will visit with the terrible news that another child has been murdered by the same perpetrator. Two other families, Fiona and Mark Botsford and the mother of the first victim Helen Purvis will receive similar calls. Meanwhile Sally Freeland, journalist for the Chronical is determined to get an exclusive. She’s well placed having persuaded Helen Purvis to let her write articles in the hope that they would find the killer of her daughter Megan and as Helen has set up a support group for the bereaved parents she has no doubt that Poppy’s parents will soon be welcomed into Megan’s Angels.
So Helen sprang into action gearing her family, teenage son Rory and husband Simon up for a meeting of Megan’s Angels along with the other FLOs and first three families, not something she is looking forward to as she describes in this perceptive and realistic paragraph:
People always expected the families to be a harmonious little group, bound together by tragedy, supporting each other through the nightmare they’d stumbled into. But they were just like everyone else. Some were prickly (Fiona Botsford), some overbearing (Simon Hewitt). They didn’t stop having personalities just because of what had happened to them – they could still get right up each other’s noses, despite the horrible thing that had brought them together.
The author has written this book from the character’s perspectives, we get an insight into their lives through their own perspective, as well as the police investigation from Leanne’s and a different viewpoint from the despicable Sally’s as she uses her own contacts to try and beat the police to finding the perpetrator. Although there is a mystery, and a very good one at that, this is a character driven book which gives the reader a great variety of sub-plots that cross the age spectrum. As always with Tammy Cohen, these are realistic people, all flawed which makes for an interesting read and helps when trying to keep straight which girl belonged to each family group.
I highly recommend this book for lovers of psychological novels with a strong domestic bent. The plot was superb with plenty of plausible suspects, and even though I worked this one out (by some fluke) I wasn’t certain enough not to get thoroughly caught up in the tension as the novel hurtled around some tight corners, dodging and swerving towards the finishing line.
First One Missing will be published by Random House UK on 2 July 2015, don’t miss out!
Previous books by Tammy Cohen (some written under her given name of Tamara Cohen)
The Mistress’s Revenge
The War of the Wives (note to self I NEED a copy of this one)
Someone Else’s Wedding
Dying for Christmas